Updated: Aug 13, 2019
Acne tends to affect teens and young adults but can come on at any age. If you have acne prone skin , then read on to find out what you need to do about it...
What causes acne?
Hormones : Those with acne can be particularly sensitive to certain hormones even if they are at normal levels , causing oil producing glands in the skin to make excess oil. Abnormal shedding of dead skin cells causes clogging and blocking of ducts/pores on your skin. The combination of this excess oil and the blocked pores results in blackheads and whiteheads.
This build-up of oil and change in the skin environment then creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. ‘Propionibacterium acnes’ is a bacterial organism that lives on everyone’s skin but in this situation, can multiply and cause inflammation which is seen as redness and pus filled spots/ pimples.
Other causes of acne are medications, oil based products and make up. Whilst there is not much scientific evidence regarding the effects of stress and diet on acne , patients report significant improvements when cutting out sugar , processed foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Products that reduce/ treat acne
As with all skin conditions, a daily skincare routine will help your skin look and stay healthy. Read my previous skincare posts to find out what you need for your skin regime. But specifically for acne, here are a products you need to include...
Salicylic acid : A chemical skin exfoliator which prevents dead skin cells from clogging up pores that result in whiteheads/blackheads.
Benzoyl peroxide : comes in the form of a gel/ cream and helps to reduce the bacteria and inflammation of acne. Better for deeper/ larger / inflamed spots and pimples as opposed to salicylic acid which is better for smaller blackheads and whiteheads . Use it sparingly as can cause redness and irritation and also make your skin sensitive to sunlight so always wear sun protection
Retinoids/ Retinol : Vitamin A derivates that reduce the clogging up of pores by dead skin cells . Avoid if pregnant/ breastfeeding .
Azelaic acid : Try if topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide cause too many side effects. It also comes as a gel/ cream and helps to get rid of bacteria and dead skin cells . Unlike benzoly peroxide, it doesnt cause increased sensitivity to sunlight (although this doesnt mean you can forget about sunscreen !)
Antibiotics : Used as a cream (or tablets in severe acne) to combact the bacteria on the skin. As with all new medications, please consult your doctor first. Most first choice antibiotics that are used to treat acne should not be taken in pregnancy/ breastfeeding/ when trying to conceive, and an alternative will be advised.
Hormonal medication : Especially if your acne flares up around your periods or related to hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovaries.
Isotretinoin : you may have heard of this as ‘Roaccutane’. Prescribed by specialist GPs or Dermatologists, this is an effective acne treatment which reduces the oil production , inflammation and bacteria on the skin as well as preventing the follicles becoming clogged up with dead skin cells. Sound like the magic cure? Unfortunately, it has serious side effects and should only be tried when all other options have not helped. Pregnant women should not use this.
Avoid the following :
Foams ie foaming gels/ cleansers etc
Mineral oil based products/ make up
Skin rejuvenation treatments that help with acne and acne scars
To be honest , no treatment will completely remove all acne scars and leave you with blemish free skin. However the treatments below are all proven to significantly reduce scars as well as improve skin tone, fine lines/wrinkles and leave you with a brighter healthier complexion. Even if you do not suffer from acne, regular skin rejuvenation treatments are recommended.
Chemical peels exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells, reducing whiteheads and blackheads. Peels for acne use salicylic acid (see above) and are a painfree, cost effective starting point for acne skin rejuvenation.
Dermabrasion uses a rapid rotating device to effectively ‘sand’ the top layers of your skin, helping with acne scars, sun damage and uneven texture of the skin. Although very effective, it requires numbing of your skin as it can be quite a 'rough' procedure , with redness and inflammation lasting for a few weeks afterwards. Beware in darker skin types as it can cause scarring and hyperpigmentation. Microdermabrasion, where tiny exfoliating crystals are sprayed and gently rotated on the skin, is much less aggressive and is a safer option for all skin types.
This is where tiny needles are used to cause intentional damage to your skin to force the skin to repair itself, stimulating new collagen and elastin production leading to smoother, younger looking skin. It may sound horrendous but due to the needles being so small, it actually is quite a gently procedure. As well as helping with acne scars, the tiny punctures in your skin also means that your skincare products penetrate deeper and you get better and faster results.
LED light therapy
The blue light on LED light masks kills the bacteria that causes acne. Plus its kinda fun. #selfietime
Ablative and non-ablative lasers can reduce scarring caused by acne. Ablative lasers remove the top layer of the skin around the scar leaving new smoother skin, whilst non ablative lasers stimulate the production of collagen which reduces the appearance of scars as well as fine lines and wrinkles and balances skin tone.
What about the occasional spot?
We’ve all been there. You wake up to go to a wedding/party/holiday and first thing you see in the bathroom mirror is a big fat spot on your face. Cue panic and a rush to find toothpaste/lemon juice and whatever else you’ve heard of. ( FYI they don’t really work and are more likely to irritate your skin). So what to do ??
If you feel like a spot might be coming up, try steaming or applying a warm compress. Heat is a great way to bring everything to the surface and cleanse your skin. If the spot is already there, looking angry / red/ swollen, then a cold compress can calm it all down followed by some benzoly peroxide/ tea tree oil.
DO NOT TOUCH IT. Out of all the rumours out there regarding spots and acne, this is definitely true. A spot that has been picked at will take much longer to heal and is more likely to scar or cause hyperpigmentation. So just step… away. #sometimeslessismore